Nerd Nite Madison 063 – The Other Side of the Buy Box

In January 2019 I gave a presentation at Nerd Nite about my experience selling Wacky Dancers on Amazon. There’s no video, but someone recorded audio. I finally got around to syncing it with my slides, so if you didn’t get to see it then, here’s as close a chance as you’ll get. Also, an update since then; we’ve sold over 450 dancers, and are no longer offering our product for sale since we have no more inventory.

Gluten-free, Dairy-free, mostly Sugar-free Pecan Pie

This turned out really well. I modified my cherry pie recipe. Before starting, put 1/2 cup shortening in the freezer to get cold. Then work on the filling, then the crust, then put it all together and bake it.

Filling

  • 2 Tbsp quick-cooking tapioca
  • Pinch of salt
  • 1 Cup sugar substitute – I used 1/2 Stevia and 1/2 Agave nectar.
    1/2 Cup sugar substitute is 1 Tbsp Stevia, and the other 1/2 Cup sugar substitute is 1/3 Cup Agave nectar.
  • 3 Tbsp Maple syrup (the not-quite-sugar-free part of the recipe, but the maple syrup flavor is important, so *shrug*).
  • 1/4 Cup water

Mix the things together in a small sauce pan, then heat over medium high heat until it’s boiling for a bit, stirring constantly. It’ll get pudding-y, which is great. I don’t like my pecan pie to be runny after it’s baked. Take it off the heat and add the next two ingredients in order. Then work on your crust.

  • 1/2 Tsp vanilla extract
  • 2 Cups chopped pecans + 1/2 Cup not chopped pecans (for decoration on top)

Crust

  • 1 1/4 Cups gluten free flour. Bob’s Red Mill Gluten Free 1-to-1 Baking Flour turned out great and was cheaper than other gluten free flours.
  • 1 Tablespoons sugar substitute. I used Stevia, which has a conversion rate of 1/3 tsp -> 1 Tbsp sugar.
  • 1/4 Tsp salt.
  • 1/2 Cup cold vegetable shortening. The cold part is important. If it’s too warm it gets too melty and makes the crust seem wet so it sticks and won’t roll. Seriously, this makes a difference. Just put it in the freezer while you make the filling.
  • 1 Eggs.
  • 1/4 Tsp apple cider vinegar (not sure why but it was in the recipe I borrowed from.)
  • Up to 3 Tbsp cold water.

Make it like a regular pie crust. Mix the dry ingredients together, then cut in the shortening using forks until you have pea sized pieces. Add the eggs and vinegar and mix some more. Then take one tablespoon at a time of the water and add it to a small part of the crust and mix it until it’s crust-like. Do that until you’ve gotten the whole crust. Then flour a table and roll it out to make your crust.

Bake at 350

Preheat the oven first. Put the crust in the bottom of your pie tin and flute the edge. Then put in the filling. Then delicately put on some decorative half-pecans in a pattern. Protect the crust with a ring of tinfoil around the edge. Bake for 20 minutes. Take the tin foil off and bake for another 25 minutes. Take it out and let it cool.

Not runny! The tapioca did its thing perfectly.

Gluten-free, Dairy-free, Sugar-free Cherry Pie

I’m not going to write some super long back story behind this pie. It’s a good recipe. It took me three tries to refine it. I made it for my partner, and she really liked it.

Filling

I tried corn starch but it wasn’t very good. I tried all Stevia but that left a bad aftertaste. This filling nailed it:

  • 4 Tbsp quick-cooking tapioca
  • 1/8 Tsp salt
  • 1 Cup sugar substitute. Doing Stevia is ok, but I didn’t like the aftertaste so it turned out 1/2 Stevia and 1/2 Agave nectar worked out perfect. 1/2 Cup sugar substitute is 1 Tbsp Stevia, and the other 1/2 Cup sugar substitute is 1/3 Cup Agave nectar.
  • 1/4 Tsp plus a smidge of almond extract. This is important. Almond extract smells like cherries. Try it. It adds a bunch of flavor.
  • 1/2 Tsp vanilla extract. Because you should always add vanilla to everything.
  • 4 Cups pitted cherries. Or 3 cans of tart cherries in water.

Mix the dry things. Add in the wet things. Then add the cherries. Let it sit while you make the crust. I’m not kidding; the tapioca needs some time to do its thing.

Crust (enough for a top and bottom)

  • 2 1/2 Cups gluten free flour. Bob’s Red Mill Gluten Free 1-to-1 Baking Flour turned out great and was cheaper than other gluten free flours.
  • 2 Tablespoons sugar substitute. I used Stevia, which has a conversion rate of 1/3 tsp -> 1 Tbsp sugar.
  • 1/2 Tsp salt.
  • 1 Cup cold vegetable shortening. The cold part is important. If it’s too warm it gets too melty and makes the crust seem wet so it sticks and won’t roll. Seriously, this makes a difference.
  • 2 Eggs.
  • 1/2 Tsp apple cider vinegar (not sure why but it was in the recipe I borrowed from.
  • Up to 6 Tbsp cold water.

Make it like a regular pie crust. Mix the dry ingredients together, then cut in the shortening using forks until you have pea sized pieces. Add the eggs and vinegar and mix some more. Then take one tablespoon at a time of the water and add it to a small part of the crust and mix it until it’s crust-like. Do that until you’ve gotten the whole crust. Then split it in half, flour a table and roll the halves out to make your bottom and top crusts.

Bake at 400

Preheat the oven first. Put the bottom half of the crust in the bottom of your pie tin. Then put in the cherry filling. Then put the top half of the crust on top. Flute the edge and vent the top. Protect the crust with a ring of tinfoil around the edge. Bake for 20 minutes. Take the tin foil off and bake for another 25 minutes. Take it out and let it cool. You did a thing!

Escape Room Map

This project uses 5 (arbitrary) magnetic reed switches in series with a battery and come LEDs. They are embedded in foam-core board, with the map overlaid on top. Some tokens have embedded rare earth magnets, so that when the tokens are placed in the correct location, on top of the switches, the switches are all turned on, which completes the circuit and illuminates some LEDs. The LEDs light up certain parts of the key of the map, which reveals the solution to the puzzle.

https://hackaday.io/project/162191-escape-room-map

Bilexa Bass

Yes, it has been done before, but nobody else has embeded Alexa INSIDE the Billy for a seamless solution. This project uses an ATTiny to perform all the logic, which includes a photoresistor for detecting when the light ring is illuminated, and audio input for detecting the audio, running a DFT (Discrete Fourier Transform), and controlling the mouth and body motors.

See the full writeup here.

IoT Security Posters

In 2017 these three posters were commissioned by the University of Wisconsin IoT Research Lab to demonstrate concepts of Internet of Things security. The three posters demonstrate 1) security vulnerabilities associated with sensors, and how a hack at each level of the chain might impact sensor data 2) security vulnerabilities with controllers, and how hacking any level can have an impact on door locks, HVAC units, or other devices, and 3) the broad impact of a compromised device and how multiple compromised devices can be used to attack assets on the Internet.

I built everything myself, including the design of all the 3D printed parts, the design of the poster, and the firmware running on a Raspberry Pi.